Thursday, March 29, 2012

The TAKS is dead.

The TAKS is dead.

The specific goal of this website has been accomplished, as protests of teachers, parents, and students have stopped a test that research has revealed as a failure. I thank everyone who fought against this test over the past 6 years.

However, the general fight for multiple-criteria assessment (rather than single-criterion assessment) continues.

There are new tests now, called STAAR. Initial reports suggest that the STAAR is quite similar to the previous exam, but covers additional subject areas. However, for this year at least, the STAAR is not being used punitively -- it won't impact students' grades. The State is admitting that there are deficiencies in the test design. This is not a surprise. No standardized test could be designed to accurately measure all of the things the STAAR supposedly will. It is a foolish, impossible mission, doomed to failure. Texas does not need this test.

Some parents are already objecting to the test:
North Texas mom prevents children from taking STAAR test

And rather than waiting a couple years, as they did with the TAKS, teachers are objecting from the very beginning:
Texas Schools Begin New Exams As Districts Call For End To High-Stakes Testing'

And students themselves are organizing against the new test. There is a new facebook group, calling for a boycott:
Boycott the Texas STAAR Test | Facebook

Like the TAKS, the STAAR is designed and sold by Pearson, a multinational corporation. Texas has not disclosed the total amount paid to Pearson for the new test, but it will definitely be a lot more than the tens of millions paid for the TAKS: the STAAR covers more content areas, includes a longer test prep regimen, and has required more development dollars already. Because of how poorly Pearson did in developing the TAKS, Texas politicians have deemed it necessary to pay Pearson even more money for the STAAR. Who better to solve our assessment problem than the company that helped create the problem? Some claim the politicians do this because Pearson lobbyists convince them how bad our schools will be without standardized testing ( ). There is something to that, and it is obvious that more and more taxpayer money is funnelled into corporations every year, meaning less money for actual teaching: every hour spent on standardized assessment is an hour not spent on actual instruction. Our kids learn less partially because they now spend less time learning.

but I do not blame the lobbyists as much as I blame the willful ignorance of the lawmakers themselves -- who choose to trust a sales pitch instead of actual research on legitimate assessment, by experts like Angela Valenzuela, Kris Sloan, and Gerald Bracey. Instead of paying Pearson, we need to invest those millions in reducing class size, developing culturally-responsive curriculum, implementing authentic assessment, grading multiple-criteria assessment, and evaluating teachers in ways that have a better history of success, such as with observation.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Senate OKs replacing TAKS with end-of-course exams in high school

Senate OKs replacing TAKS with end-of-course exams in high school
April 20, 2007, 12:45PM
Houston Chronicle

Associated Press

AUSTIN — The state's high-stakes standardized exit exam would be history for high schoolers under a bill the Texas Senate unanimously approved Thursday.
The legislation would replace the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills with exams in four core subjects for students in grades 9 to 11. Younger students would still have to take the standardized exam.
The high-stakes nature of the TAKS has been lambasted by teachers and parents, who argue that too much classroom time is spent on preparing students for the test. Students take the exit-level test as juniors and must pass to graduate.
The proposal would be phased in over several years, starting with students who are in ninth grade in 2009-10. It now goes to the House, where the public education committee approved a similar bill on Tuesday.
"For a long time, we've all heard the public outcry, we've all heard the frustration," said Sen. Florence Shapiro, a Plano Republican who sponsored the bill. "End of course assessments will go a long way toward addressing many of these concerns."
The end-of-course exams would be given in English language arts, math, science and social studies. Each test would be worth 100 points and students would have to earn 840 points — or 70 percent of a possible 1,200 points — to graduate. That means a student who struggles with one subject could make up points by excelling in another.
Each test grade would also count as 15 percent of the student's course grade. Students who perform well on Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and SAT subject tests could have those scores counted toward the end of course exam requirement.
Teachers' groups gave the bill a cautious thumbs up, saying it is a step in the right direction but does not really change the state's accountability system.
"There is still much that has to be done to ensure that these new exams don't become the monster that TAKS did," said Cindy Chapman, a high school math teacher from the Panhandle who is state president of the Association of Texas Professional Educators.
A handful of states, including New York, Tennessee, North Carolina and Maryland, already use end-of-course exams in place of high-stakes tests. End exams can be used to fulfill the No Child Left Behind requirement for testing if they are standardized.
In addition to eliminating the exit exam, the legislation would direct school districts to administer the PSAT to eighth and 10th graders every year at state expense. Juniors and seniors also would be able to take the SAT or ACT once at state expense.